Monthly Archives: December 2012



Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo at Dusk



Mark Tredinnick



We sense and we experience that we are eternal

—Spinoza, Ethics, Part V



The white bird high in the crown of the elm is a better idea

Than any you’ve had all day; a smarter prospect than her name


Implies. She’s a flag of erotic surrender, an outbreak of love

In the middle of June. Behind her, the whole sky is a ghost, hunched


Inside his famous grey raincoat, and a rainbow hangs from his pocket

Like an old joke. Dusk swells and strands the tree in halogen floods.


You, at your window, are the bird’s entire audience, and she knows it,

And she drops from the treetops and flies at you as if she doesn’t mean


To miss—until just metres from the glass she departs hysterically,

From the script, and does. The world works best when it misses


Its mark. Good ideas rush you, but never quite arrive, leaving room

For doubt and time for questions. A life lived there is a life in love: desire,


Growing wise in the attempt, flies from how things look to what they are

Or might be yet, and your body, losing its footing, becomes your soul again.





Above and Below


Philip Salom


The woman upstairs is sour and lives in grimaces,

her nerdy girlfriends visit, her sour-source-of-it-all

father maintains the furnishings. The man downstairs

knows life is elocution. He is the Queen’s English.

His wife is Silesian. They are always at war.


Lowering steps into the basement, or lowering

thought after thought into the blue television

I imagine new theories of everything all the way

into knowledge of nothing. Unhappy persons

live everywhere. I between cliche and reason.


My Zen. On Wednesday the room blanks out.

Power off in the street, I lean against the window.

Cities are a mystery: the bright choirs of high-rise

and darkness. I go out jogging. On the second lap

the park lights suddenly blaze but stuck in pre-


-orgasmic running I can’t stop. I’m hopeless, but muscular.

Other runners are slapping towards me like aliens

their human shadows stretching on the grass and track

where I might run out my life in laps of tears.

Inside the track and set in the darkness for dinner:


one collapsible table, their fold-out chairs, sit four

adults eating a meal from dinner plates under gas

lamps, glowing glasses of wine. And a terrier in a tuxedo

couchant in its little coffin beside them in the grass

its white lining tucked around like a myelin sheath.


Dead, they say, on my next lap, this was his favourite

park for a walk. So I run past that three-course meal

on a dog’s account, with his dead yaps at my heels

and chasing my head. No, aliens have nothing on this.

But now I see them, all of their arriving, blazing.


I run. Above and below. I am as happy as a helicoptor.

I run. I lift off. I disappear.






Song of the dead amongst the living


Claine Keily


I want to be here alone amongst these apples
to hold back myself
from the world of men
I want to sleep again
as I did before I knew you
before I wanted to cut out my heart
and throw it to the seas

I don’t want to hear again
that men do not love as we do
that the difference
goes as deep as blood
that their still mouths are dead
even when they are kissing
I don’t want to learn of the
torture of their acts
nor of the stories they wrap
about even the moon’s circumference
and each woman born to labor

I want to rest awhile
here, alone, without them
so as rumours shall spread
that I have died here

But I am not dead
she can see me
‘that there is a stable of gold in my lips’
see that I am a friend to the dying
and not just
this shadow,
these tears

Cover me with night, my veil
I hide because they
have thrown a myriad of
pictures at me
and wet with hard thoughts
they broke me
then led me ashore
to where the pincers of
scorpions bore fruit
and in my wet shoes
I danced timeless tunes

For what I want
is to sleep the dream of
my own sleeping
for the ears of corn to
unfold, unfurl me
to be heard in this
lament for the dead
amongst the living
yes, I the dark child
who cut her heart out
with your mirrors







Katia Mitova


Oókempán* walks on all fours.

There is a shell on his back

and a child in the shell –

a stolen child, a stolen child.


When Oókempán spots a boy,

a boy far from his toldo,

he lures the boy with words

sweet as a calafate blossom:


“There is a horse in my shell,”

Oókempán says, “the wind’s horse

locked up, waiting for you.

Free the horse, boy!”


When Oókempán spots a girl,

a girl at the river, his words glisten

like silver: “Come to my shell,”

he says. “Inside, there is a mirror.”


It is dark in Oókempán’s shell –

I’ve been there. I lived there.

Oókempán stole me once

and showed me nothing.


I saw it with my own eyes

in Oókempán’s shell. I saw nothing

and was not scared then.

But if he steals me now, I will die.




*Oókempán, a monster in the mythology of the Tehuelche Indians inhabiting Southern Patagonia,

steals little children because he is lonely.






ophidian verse

 Vaughan Rapatahana 


so it’s the      S


    N    way



hisself,                 A



K  &




                  E < the end.







Ode to Astroboy


You grew out of them, the scrapped cities,

the early hours of nuclear dawn.

Light and time are all your now, burning off the mist.

You hear a bird’s sudden whistle,

look up at the steel cathedral and see nothing.

Look up again. An Indian Minah, most adaptable,

perched over a check-in counter

hones its beak on a crossbeam.

Your coffee’s long cold, but the coffee machines

just get cheaper. An ex-head of state you tried to save

goes to house arrest (again),

her motorcade gridlocked in the dawn

of a new city, the tenth this week.

Everywhere is dawn, anytime is dawn, dawn is hope

and here they say there’s plenty going round.

The dream-flight to Taipei’s cancelled, like

independence. Still, you ‘fall in love’ with China

because Miss X had said you were ancient,

yes was a model, it was getting late.

You want more pirated software, you want

better airline food.

You want morning to end, and exit to the glare

and workaday wisdom of midday.


You’re Astroboy, doing your Asian thing,

so chubby faced, a little overweight, but ruthless.


And you’re still flying or sleeping off a hangover

in an airport with a laptop for a pillow –

everyone who doesn’t look like you

is doing it, just dozing off while standing at attention.

The city rushes down escalators and stumbles onto planes.

Fast city, world’s longest escalator.

A girl in black with a slip of lace showing,

a young screen jockey with dripping gelled hair.

The Aussies are happy, going home or nowhere.

Can you smell it, ‘global’ readership?

Re-invent yourself as a solar vacuum cleaner.

Eat more noodles. Kiss babies.

Dress like Aussies dress – children at a fete.

Harassed, impatient, stuck on first base.

We could ask the Americans, embrace millions,

from the very shabby to the acutely manicured.

Harassed at home or abroad, money worry.

The elderly browsing still like its archery,

egrets eyeing up a bargain.

No more Wordsworth’s sheep or

optimistic childhood imagery:

Little Dorrits winning the lottery.


You were ahead of the game

before the game changed.

You’re luckier, always faster and lighter

on your feet, which were rockets.

powered by opaque prosperity. Still

so many mornings to go,

so many, and your Blackberry says

10:32, 18 degrees, clear day

over Tokyo, weekly outlook

fine and getting finer.

Bend with the wind, spread your riches

to the four corners.










Snakes and Ladders

Virginia Shepherd


I’m under siege.  The beginning: a glossy black snake, its belly a red flare, thrashes at the back door, leaves a neat red slash on my dog Bridget’s neck. The old saying ‘never trust a person you meet after a snake has appeared at the back door’ came true.  The same snake now glides past my bedroom window, peers up irritably, inflates itself. Pours from a hole in the rocks outside my study window, trails that unmistakeable persistent rustle. I know it’s there before I see it. Sharpening of an atavistic sense, epigenetic memory of pythons big as train carriages, whose down-swinging jaws could take and swallow peristaltically anyone who slept deeply.  Head first.  A python opened, a child removed, coated in tough mucilage like a jelly bean. They’re out there in the hot nights, I know, the air crackles with that sense when I take the dogs out on leads. The little snake-shy Tenterfield darts his head, leaps a foot in the air at the sight of a stick.


Don’t mind the diamond python.  Home that afternoon, talking on the phone I spied the gauzy skin swinging in the bougainvillea, retaining exactly the shape of its owner as shed stockings recall a shapely leg.  Still wet and flexible from the shedding.  The scales a thousand blueish and opalescent eyes, the triangulations where the diamond pigments underlie the keratin.  Unwound from the thorns, it was nearly three metres long, complete with eye lenses and lips, and only a minor tear where the owner snagged the skin to unroll and shed.


The man in the Faulconbridge print shop, accustomed to printing local histories and how-to-vote pamphlets, is delighted with the challenge of laminating the skin.  I want to preserve it, the symbolism of this moulting, growth and renewal. Scan it and turn it into an image, a pattern of electrons on a screen, magnify it until it reveals its memories, the thrashing trees, the patterns of bark slithered over, the tessellated sandstones navigated on hot nights, the wings of birds devoured, the tails and feet of mice, the coruscations of fur, the endless eyes, and finally, an infinity of snakes.


Print onto paper, these images of skin, and these python dreams, memories of all that was shed. Begin to cut them out with surgical scissors, paste the shapely memories onto postcard art cards. Snakes mostly, some trees with wildly twisted bark, a couple of scaly fish, landscapes, and shapes unidentifiable to me, the substance of a snakes incomprehensible dreams. Anna had sent me a card with an image of one of Hilik’s sculptures, a landscape carved from wood whose grain itself holds memories, a record of time that Hilik shaves back and reveals.  Onto this I pasted many snakes that writhed out of the print of the python’s skin. I knew they were yearning for something- what was it?  A ladder, of course. Falling from the sky.  That old game of snakes and ladders, where the oldest boards have menacing, realistic snakes and the ladders are hard to find.  On Kit’s card I have pasted strange trees and a snake pausing in the moonlight, another falling ladder. This card turned into a sort of cartoon but the trees were there already, I swear it, in the shed skin of the python, as well as the motionless moonlit snake.  Saffron and crimson trees. I have a thing for these colours.  A hand over the face of the moon.


The multiple symbolisms of snakes, biblical, mythological, Confucian. The hexagram of revolution- moulting- with its admonition that haste and ruthlessness during moulting brings disaster, and so too does hesitation and conservatism.  The tree of knowledge, the serpent and the apple, the Lernean hydra guarding the underworld, the snake as deception, as wisdom, whose poisonous bite ultimately heals, all these words with an S onomatopoeia for that unmistakeable sound a snake makes in the grass.


Walking, I knew before I reached the sandstone ledge I think of as ‘mine’ that the lone Erica, bravely facing the gully, would be flowering, its white bells a gauzy froth.  No person or dog has been down here and I’m watched by a thousand eyes.


The bush has erupted into saffron and crimson blossoms, puffing streams of pollen into the air. These ‘egg and bacon’ flowers are a thousand faces, mirroring the bees, benign and befurred, golden with pollen. Quizzical furry bee-faces, thick sturdy antennae, a complex of kaleidoscope eyes, wings burring like spitfire planes.  The flowers, labiatous, have the eyes of bees, and long luscious tongues fellate the stigma which is thick and swollen with pollen. The whole appendage swooning as a bee impales its face and proboscis in the bullseye. These droning buzzing insects- the bush is throbbing like a helicopters whump whump, like the blood in my head after the walk.  Dark red flowers thrusting their impudent faces, lifting their skirts in the damp wind.


Leaning on a rock, I was facing the gully of bees when I saw the snake.  A thin flexible brown snake, with small head, large eyes. Surreptitious, cautious, making that distinctive susurrus amongst the leaves. Three points of attachment, sinuous S-bends, approaching me.  I keep so still it feels as if I’ve left my body, yet the snake pauses, flattens itself.  Both of us motionless, not breathing.  It shrugs off the awareness that something is there.  Advances.  Is that tongue really forked?  Slithering up my leg now, a small neat head navigating my flesh, up over the hips, the rib corrugations, to my neck, where it stops.  Rests its head in the hollow of my scapula, nestling.  I can see the neat scales outlining its lips and nostrils.  Surprisingly its body is warm, waxy rather than dry.  If I move I’m dead.  I have to move.  Dilemma in the hexagram of moulting: avoid both excessive haste and excessive hesitation. One of us will move. A cloud’s dark fist closes over the sun.  The wind is the only breath.  Pollen motes whirl through glassy air.  The bees, oblivious, are plundering the flowers.  One of us will have to move.








Mark Roberts


as a child i saw the faded sign

on a gate

off delhi road

just past

the brand new tv studio

& wondered where

the overgrown track

led to


walking along the river

i found the two palm trees

& weeds head high

on the old picnic grounds


there once was a wharf

& a wooden dance hall

i stare into the water

but can see only

water logged branches


without protection

european fairies

were no match

for hungry magpies






























































shaking home


Chris Song Zijiang


Some want to move, but can’t find

their homes; others want to stay, but don’t know

when they may return. During the day

you say you’re overburdened, your spine

is already a curve; at night, the swelling

keeps you from sleep. You hear cement

flaking; steel bars exposed.  You wonder

how many spurs stick out from your aching spine.

You have to grit your teeth through this sleepless night.

You have gritted your teeth for fifteen years.

You dared not cry, afraid to be evacuated.

In the end it’s tumultuous footsteps

– an anxious rhythm to which you’re drawn.


You go back to pack your stuff

thoughts drifting through a web of intersections.

What should you leave behind?

The weak sun through the indifferent rails;

the bars keep obscure distance from one another;

threads of the nylon bag look to keep their outside

in check; in it are all out of tune. In the end,

you can only bring an uncertain future. Before leaving,

you shut the windows, not knowing when

they can be re-opened. You come down

to the solid street, realizing you’ve left behind

a shaking home. Looking at a window

that you’ve forgotten to close, you wanted to ask yourself –

what is home? –


A little girl is holding her mother’s hand

other hand holding a pillow. Your red pockets

under it haven’t brought enough luck

for you to sleep over this trans-century

time bomb. A rustle of dry autumnal winds.

You walk over to the other side of the street

and look at the window sill. Your bed

is just behind the dark dingy wall. Last night

you peeked through the sliver between curtains

at the silver crescent. This sickle is now harvesting

the remnant in your heart. The light

dims into tenebrous doubts you carry

on your back. You can’t let it out.

Your straight back bone is curved

to a question mark – Where am I to sleep tonight? –

You haven’t asked. You’re just holding the silent pillow.


We’re all taking refuge here;

We’re all sleeping on beds of fire;

We’re separated by one plank.

We’ve agreed not to speak,

so that we can sleep through the night.

Why do the planks creak?

We’ve agreed not to speak,

but you sighed. Are you

thinking otherwise?

Let’s not make a sound.

Let’s sleep through the night.


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